Forget the surgical masks (for now). Some medical experts say the best way to prevent swine flu is to get enough sleep, eat right, and of course, wash your hands.
We admit it: We're kind of starting to freak out about swine flu. Now the World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert for swine flu to the second highest level, meaning
that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.
A 23-month-old toddler in Texas died of the virus. Then we read about "Patient Zero," 5-year-old Edgar Hernandez, who was the first person confirmed with Mexico's swine flu. Panic set in.
We called momlogic's pediatrician, Dr. Cara Natterson, for a reality check. She says, "I am not worried. My kids are in school, I am out and about, and I have not run out to the pharmacy to get antiviral medications." If a Harvard-educated pediatrician feels this way, it helps ease our fears!
As Dr. Natterson outlined in our earlier post, three things are crucial in preventing swine flu:
1. Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing.
2. If your child doesn't feel well, keep him home.
3. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
And there are other common-sense steps you can take, too. Build up your immune system by getting enough sleep. Eat right. Remember all those things your mom told you to do way back when? Turns out she was right!
Dr. Cara Natterson says, "Common sense and basic hygiene are major mechanisms for avoiding any number of viral infections. Hand washing is best -- I far prefer soap and water, but antibacterial solutions (like Purell) are reasonable alternatives if you can't get to a sink. Sleep helps, too. Your immune system may be more capable of fighting infections if you are not run down."
Should we be taking our vitamins now, too? Dr. Cara says, "I am not as big a believer in multivitamins because I prefer eating healthy and well-balanced meals. But multivitamins won't hurt ... It's just that many of the vitamins go right through you, especially if you are getting enough in your diet already. For this reason, I tell parents not to battle with their kids too much over vitamins, and instead to focus on healthy meals. If you or your child wants a daily vitamin, though, there's no harm done, so go ahead."
But should you buy a face mask? According to a piece in the LA Times, regular face masks are not created to protect the wearer from breathing in very small particles. Respirator masks, known as N95 for their filtering ability, are designed specifically to protect the wearer from breathing in such particles, so they're preferred.
Dr. Cara says, "A number of health officials and CDC doctors have said this week that many of the masks being used won't be particularly effective. I heard one describe it as similar to 'trying to stop a fly with a chain-link fence.' But masks do help to contain respiratory droplets (the tiny moist particles that a sick person coughs or sneezes) and the flu virus does tend to attach itself to these droplets. This is presumably why the Mexican government has been handing them out. Again, it's not a perfect fix, but it certainly doesn't hurt."
Bookmark this site that tracks swine flu cases worldwide. This will help you track new cases in your area.
What are you doing to protect your family? Discuss in the momlogic community.
|Dr. Cara Natterson, a graduate of Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and author of "Your Toddler: Head To Toe," is a pediatrician and mother of 2. She is working on her forthcoming book, "Dangerous or Safe?"|